Consumer Satisfaction/Dissatisfaction in Apparel Online Shopping at the Product-Receiving Stage: The Effects of Brand Image and Product Performance

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Virginia Tech

Due to the success of apparel online shopping, many researchers in consumer behavior hope to extend the existing consumer behavior theories into the electronic commerce area to assist apparel marketers to develop effective marketing strategies to understand, attract, and maintain their consumers (Goldsmith & McGregor, 1999). Many apparel researchers have investigated Consumer Satisfaction/Dissatisfaction (CS/D) with online shopping (Hou, 2005; Jiang & Rosenbloom, 2005; Kim, Kim & Lennon, 2006; Lee, 2004). However, most of these studies focused on CS/D with apparel websites or e-service quality, rather than CS/D with the products purchased online.

In apparel online shopping, consumers cannot examine the textures, hand, or color of the fabric or try on the garment. Because of the intangibility of apparel products on the website, consumers may use extrinsic cues, such as brand image, to judge if the brand is worthy of the price and to make an inference of the product quality (O'Neal, 1992). Previous studies about brand image mainly discussed about how brand image influences consumers' perception and evaluation of product quality (d''Astous & Saint-Louis, 2005; Dodds, Monroe & Grewal, 1991) and the impact of brand image to consumers' purchase intention (Ataman & Ulengin, 2003; Li, 2004; Park & Stoel, 2005). No research has examined how brand image influences consumers'' expectations at purchase and the perceptions of product performance at the product-receiving stage, and the role of brand image in CS/D after receiving products, especially in the realm of apparel online shopping. Therefore, a study investigating the roles of brand image and product performance in CS/D with apparel online shopping is essential.

The purpose of the study was to examine the factors related to CS/D with the purchased product and with the brand in apparel online shopping at the product-receiving stage. The four objectives of the study were to examine (a) the relationships between consumers'' individual differences (i.e., brand sensitivity, brand familiarity, brand self-congruity and demographics) and perceived brand image at the purchase stage, (b)the influence of consumers'' perceived brand image at purchase on their expectation for product performance and on perceived product performance, (c) antecedences of CS/D with the product and CS/D with the brand, and (d) antecedences of product return intention and repurchase intention.

A model of CS/D with the purchased apparel product and with the brand in an online shopping context was proposed as the framework of this study. Different from the two stages (i.e., purchase stage, product-consumption stage) usually proposed in the studies of offline shopping, an extra product-receiving stage was included between purchase and product-consumption stages to illustrate the process of CS/D after consumer receive the product that they ordered online. Fifteen hypotheses were developed according to the relationships proposed in the framework. A 2 X 2 between-subjects factorial experimental design was developed to conduct this study. The treatment variables were brand image and product performance. Two levels of brand image at the purchase stage (i.e., higher, lower) were manipulated by two brand names and logos. Two levels of product performance at the product-receiving stage (i.e., higher,lower) were manipulated by two sweatshirts with different levels of quality. A website was developed to simulate the apparel online shopping process, and a questionnaire was developed to measure the variables included in this study. A structural equation model was developed to examine the proposed relationships and hypotheses.

Results in this study showed that both brand image and product performance significantly influenced CS/D with product and CS/D with the brand. Product performance was the most important factor on consumers'' satisfaction with the product that they ordered online. Brand image at purchase played a direct role in CS/D with the brand but an indirect role in CS/D with the product. Brand image at purchase positively influenced product performance expectation; product performance expectation positively influenced the perception of product performance; and then, perceived product performance affected satisfaction/dissatisfaction with the product. Visible attribute (i.e.,style, color) expectancy disconfirmation was also found to be an antecedence of CS/D with the product. If perceived product performance of style and color was better than what they expected, participants tended to be more satisfied with the product. CS/D with the product was found to be a significant antecedence of CS/D with the brand. CS/D with the product was found to be the direct factor influencing product return intention, and perceived brand image at the product-receiving stage and CS/D with the brand were antecedents of repurchase intention.

In conclusion, this study suggests that brand image and product performance were significant factors on CS/D with the purchased product and with the brand at the product-receiving stage in apparel online shopping. This study is beneficial to consumer behavior researchers and apparel e-tailers by identifying the roles of brand image and product performance in apparel online shopping. Based on the results, marketing strategies in apparel online shopping were provided.

Product performance, Brand image, Consumer satisfaction/dissatisfaction